Boulder Skies at Dusk

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Time takes everything but the Truth ~ True Detective

Part 8. Steve Thomas Deposition

Q. (BY MR. WOOD) Mr. Thomas -- yeah, I've got it -- the 911 tape. Did you ever hear any explanation as to why that tape was garbled in part?
A. At some point during the investigation I recall the tape coming to Detective Sergeant Wickman's attention initially because the 911 operator who took that call thought there may have been something at the end of the conversation that was unintelligible.
Q. I appreciate that information. 6 But I would like to get to my question because my time is limited today at least and whether we finish or not is another issue. But my question is, did you ever, sir, hear any explanation as to why a portion of the 911 tape was garbled?
A. I'm not sure I understand your question. Are you asking me why --
Q. Yeah, was anybody trying to figure out why -- the 911 tape is a tape in realtime, isn't it?
A. Yes.
Q. And one would think that you would hear in realtime voices that are on the tape. You say there is something garbled. Was there ever any attempt to find out why this portion of the tape might be garbled and not discernible to the human ear without some scientific analysis? That's my question.
A. I don't think that it was garbled in the sense that there was a defect in the tape or something, that's certainly not my understanding. I think the description of garbled was meant to include the fact that as this phone was apparently being attempted 7 placed back into the cradle, there was some conversation that was not as clear as Patsy Ramsey speaking directly into the phone, to the 911 operator.
Q. You knew the phone from your investigation was a wall phone, didn't you?
A. Yes.
Q. Can you hear any effort on the tape to try to hang the phone up, a banging or a tapping or anything of that nature?
A. The call obviously concludes with the line disconnecting but, no, not that I recall today without listening to the tape of the phone banging.
Q. Do you know whether the 911 tapes that were being utilized at the time were recycled in the sense that they might be taped over after a period of time?
A. I don't know.
Q. Was any effort made by the Boulder Police Department, to your knowledge, to try to ascertain that information?
A. I would certainly think they did.
Q. But do you know the answer?
A. I don't have any knowledge of 8 that.
Q. Secondhand or otherwise?
A. No.
Q. Take a look at your book, if you will, for me, page 15. Are you with me?
A. Yes.
Q. "In preliminary examinations, detectives thought they could hear some more words being spoken between the time Patsy Ramsey said 'Hurry, hurry, hurry' and when the call was terminated." Have I read that correctly?
A. Yes.
Q. Is that the truth, is that accurate?
A. Yes.
Q. "However, the FBI and the United States Secret Service could not lift anything from the background noise on the tape." Have I read that correctly?
A. Yes.
Q. Is that the truth?
A. As we discussed earlier, yes.
Q. I thought you said you didn't know what efforts, if any, they had made earlier? 9
A. I said in one case at least I don't know that they had the proper or necessary compatible equipment to try to enhance this tape, nor did I know of them ever submitting a report.
Q. All I would like to know is did the FBI to your knowledge or the Secret Service to your knowledge ever send the tape back and say we don't have the proper equipment to see if we can lift anything from the background noise on this tape?
A. Again, we have discussed that and that's my testimony, that not being my assignment, it was my understanding that the tape came back from the FBI and the Secret Service without anything definitive, but I recall there being an issue that somebody didn't have proper equipment to do the testing.
Q. Well, you don't say anything like that here. This is definitive. The FBI and the United States Secret Service could not lift anything from the background noise on the tape. Is that a true statement or not?
A. Whether, because they didn't have 0 the correct machine or because they didn't lift anything if they did do some testing, yes, that's a true statement.
Q. Why wouldn't you -- I mean with all due respect I don't think you were trying to do the Ramseys any favors in this book. Why wouldn't you have said here that they couldn't lift anything from the background noise on the tape but that may have been the result of inappropriate equipment. You didn't say that or discuss that in your book, did you?
A. If we're talking about the production of the book, it was certainly limited. I couldn't put everything in this case into the content of the book.
Q. The bottom line is we're confident that someone in the Boulder Police Department can answer the question about the findings by the United States Secret Service and the FBI about this 911 tape. That's in the case file, isn't it?
A. Undoubtedly.
Q. Good. And I don't believe I asked you this; I wanted to. Are you aware 1 of any attempts to take a voice exemplar from Burke Ramsey and have it analyzed against the voice you think your human ear tells you or because it's a third-party voice that it's Burke Ramsey, any efforts to do a scientific analysis by way of a voice exemplar between Burke Ramsey's voice and the voice you think might have been his on the 911 tape?
A. I certainly never received an assignment like that, nor do I recall hearing or knowing of anyone else who did.
Q. In December of 1996, who did you consider to be the most experienced homicide detective in the Boulder Police Department?
A. In the entire department?
Q. I think I'm pretty clear, sir, in the Boulder Police Department, the detective department of the Boulder police.
A. As I asked, that the detective -- there is a detective department and then there is a uniform department where --
Q. I think my question said in the detective department.
A. In the detective department I think the most experienced homicide 2 investigator was likely Detective Sergeant Tom Wickman.
Q. As I understand it initially Tom Trujillo and Linda Ardnt were the two designated co-lead detectives on the case, JonBenet Ramsey case, true?
A. Yes.
Q. And then after Arndt was removed, did Tom Wickman take that place, did he become the lead detective?
A. Tom Wickman or Tom Trujillo?
Q. You tell me whether it was Wickman or Trujillo.
A. No, because there was no real designation at that point.
Q. Were you ever designated by the department as the lead detective or co-lead detective on the case?
A. There were four or five detectives who were designated as primary detectives who worked this case full time with no other assignments.
Q. My question was were you ever designated by the Boulder Police Department as the lead detective or a co-lead detective on 3 the JonBenet Ramsey case?
A. No, after Ardnt left -- actually, prior to Arndt leaving, that designation was not being used in the manner you describe it.
Q. The two shootings that you were involved in while you were with the Boulder Police Department, do you know whether the department itself investigated those two shootings?
A. I don't know the inception of a unit called the Boulder County Shoot Team, when that came into being but it was either investigated by the Boulder County Shoot Team or the Boulder Police Department.
Q. Are you aware of any information relating to Patsy Ramsey, Mr. Thomas, that you consider to be incriminating with respect to the death of her daughter that is not included in your hardback or paperback book?
A. In a circumstantial case such as this there are arguments that could be made that there is a lot of other information contained within the files of the Boulder Police Department that didn't fit into -- in this book.
Q. Thank you. But I want to know as you sit here today whether you are prepared to give me the benefit of any information related to Patsy Ramsey that you, Steve Thomas, consider to be incriminating with respect to the death of her daughter that is not included in either your hardback or paperback book? MR. DIAMOND: Can you do that without reviewing --
A. Yeah, without reviewing --
MR. WOOD: Excuse me. Can I get him to answer without you suggesting the answer which would be totally inappropriate and I don't think appreciated under the Federal Rules or by the judge. Please answer the question for me without being coached by Mr. Diamond.
MR. DIAMOND: Mr. Thomas doesn't need to be coached by me, sir.
MR. WOOD: Well, apparently then you need to understand that, don't coach him. Coach him during lunch, do it in the last two days you had him.
Q. (BY MR. WOOD) Answer my question, sir. Is there any other information that as you sit here today know that you consider incriminating about Patsy Ramsey in terms of her being involved in the death of her daughter that you didn't include in your book?
A. To answer that big question, I would have to review my reports and the case file to determine definitively if there are items that were learned during the course of the investigation that I didn't put in the book.
Q. So you would be able to do that if you can come up with this box of materials when you go to look for it and you find it, right?
A. Or if you can allow me inside the Boulder Police Department, I'll do that for you.
Q. I think -- while I might have a better chance of getting the key to the department than you might, I don't think either one of us is going to get that short of a court order but I'll certainly try and if you would like to try maybe we can both 6 together do it; is that a deal?
A. Deal, Mr. Wood.
Q. Okay. We'll go in combined and ask Beckner to open the door. I would love to see it and I know you would, too. I'm going to try and go through and ask you if you would to take a look at your book -- well, before I do that, let me ask you a couple of other things. Who is Dr. Michael Graham?
A. The name Dr. Michael Graham doesn't ring a bell with me right now.
Q. He was not a consultant hired by the Boulder Police Department?
A. He may have been but I'm not familiar with that person.
Q. You don't recall Dr. Michael Graham taking the position that the pineapple found in JonBenet's digestive system could have been eaten the day before? Does that refresh you in terms of Michael Graham's involvement?
A. No, since you mentioned pineapple --
Q. I didn't ask you -- I asked you about Dr. Michael Graham.
A. I'm trying to answer the question.
Q. Well, my question is, does that refresh you about Dr. Graham?
A. In that limited way, no.
Q. There was clearly an indication from a member of the Boulder Police Department that they found at least seven doors and windows unlocked at the Ramsey home on the morning of December 26, 1996. You remember that, don't you?
A. I've heard that referred to. I don't know -- what detective are you referring to?
Q. Have you heard that, sir? Has that not been part of a presentation made to you?
A. By Lou Smit or Mr. DeMuth?
Q. Either one.
A. What presentation are you talking about?
Q. There were two presentations, one in May and one in June. You attended both, true?
A. I did.
Q. You took notes, didn't you?
A. I may have.
Q. You paid careful attention to what was being said, didn't you?
A. I believe so.
Q. Have you ever heard that there were seven windows and doors found unlocked in the Ramsey home on the morning of December 26, 1996?
A. I don't know who the source of that is right now but I --
Q. I didn't ask you the source. I asked you have you ever heard it, sir?
A. Yeah. MR. DIAMOND: Have you heard that from any source?
A. Yeah.
Q. (BY MR. WOOD) From someone connected with the investigation, either in the district attorney's office or the Boulder Police Department?
A. Or courtesy of you and the media, yeah, I believe I've heard that.
Q. Trust me, I wasn't there the morning of the 26th and I didn't find the 9 status of the doors. I'm asking you whether --
A. Nor was I, no.
Q. And I don't think I was around in May or June when the presentations were made. You heard that a Boulder police officer had found as many as seven doors and windows unlocked in that house on the morning of December 26, 1996, hadn't you, sir?
A. You're sourcing that to a -- now to a Boulder police officer detective and that's not my recollection; DeMuth may have said that.
Q. Do you think Trip DeMuth made it up out of a whole cloth?
A. I don't know where Trip DeMuth uncovered a lot of things in his investigation.
Q. So you think that there was -- you feel like you can competently say that's not true, that there were no doors found unlocked or windows found unlocked that morning?
A. I wasn't there that morning.
Q. Well, sir, you were not but you 0 have to rely, as you say earlier in your testimony, on your fellow officers, right?
A. That's right.
Q. All right. Well, did you go back and ever look to see if there were ever any reports that would have indicated that there were as many as seven windows and doors found unlocked in that house that morning?
A. I'm not familiar with the detective or the report you're speaking about.
Q. How about Officer Reichenbach, how do you pronounce his name?
A. Reichenbach.
Q. Do you ever recall hearing about what he said when he met with Dr. Henry Lee in terms of whether there was snow on the sidewalk of the house when he arrived that morning?
A. Yes.
Q. What did he say?
A. He said, and he also said this to me, that although there was due to what I think was an 11 degree temperature outside, there was a fresh frost and maybe a light dusting of snow on some of the lawn areas, 1 but on the sidewalks and walkways around the house, as he put in his report, as I may have put in one of my reports, as we presented to the VIP conference, that you could not tell whether or not somebody may have walked on those walkways in question.
Q. Or the wood chips?
A. I don't recall specifically him talking about the wood chips.
Q. Did you also get some information from NOAA about whether or not there might have been snow expected to be found on the north and west sidewalks of the Ramsey home on the morning of December 26th?
A. I think one detective may have gotten that assignment.
Q. And that NOAA indicated they would not have expected snow there; is that right?
A. I don't know the results of that NOAA report.
Q. You would have had the ability to look at them when you were there and investigating the case, wouldn't you?
A. Yes, I don't -- as I said, I don't recall seeing that NOAA report. 2
Q. What did the FBI tell you, the Boulder Police Department, about the credibility of Dr. Werner Spitz?
A. Dr. Spitz I believe was the assignment of Detectives Trujillo, Wickman and possibly Weinheimer.
Q. They didn't tell you that, did they?
A. No, but I'm trying to answer the question.
Q. I know but we have a limited amount of time today but if we don't finish, we can come back and finish another day. It would be helpful I think if you try to focus and stay on task with my question. I don't mean to cut you off. You have the right to explain the answer but we can move quicker if we go directly to answering my question. My question is, sir, did the FBI to your knowledge make any statement to the Boulder police about the credibility of Dr. Werner Spitz?
A. No, to the contrary. I'm not aware of any such statement. And to the contrary, the detectives assigned to Dr. Spitz 3 thought the world of him and thought he was entirely professional and credible and I never heard anything attacking the credibility of Spitz.
Q. At either presentation, it wasn't said?
A. No, DeMuth's presentation, other than attacking virtually everything, the VIP presentation, I took that Spitz was an esteemed forensic pathologist.
Q. Relying on your fellow officers again, right?
A. Yes.
Q. There was a Barbie nightgown found in the wine cellar where JonBenet Ramsey's body was found, right?
A. Right.
Q. Was there any evidence obtained from that nightgown?
A. Not that I'm aware of prior to departing August of '98.
Q. There was no fiber evidence that you're aware of that was found on that nightgown?
A. Not that Detective Trujillo shared 4 with me.
Q. Was there any blood evidence found on that nightgown?
A. Not that I'm aware of.
Q. Any hair evidence found on that nightgown, to your knowledge, firsthand or secondhand?
A. Not that I'm aware of.
Q. Was there any decision made or conclusion drawn, perhaps is the better way to say it, that you're aware of, from any source, as to whether the panties that JonBenet Ramsey was found in had been worn and washed in the past or were new, in effect, fresh out of the package?
A. I believe that was after my departure that that underwear investigation took place.
Q. So, again, the state of the evidence with respect to that issue, you do not know, true?
A. Right.
Q. Do you know whether there were any autopsy photos that showed JonBenet from the standpoint of being able to look at it to 5 see whether or not the panties, not the other articles of clothing, but the panties, fit her or whether they were obviously not a correct fit?
A. It's my belief from detective briefings that they were referred to as oversized floral panties.
Q. Thank you. Were there any autopsy photos is my question?
A. Without the long-john over pants covering the underwear, I don't recall seeing any autopsy photos of just the child in her underpants.
Q. Was there any other fibers found on the duct tape, other than the fibers that Mr. Hoffman had referred you to with respect to Patsy Ramsey's sweater or jacket?
A. I believe so, yes.
Q. And it's also true that those fibers were not capable or there was no identification made, no source found in the investigation, true?
A. When I left, I don't believe those other fibers had been sourced.
Q. And, you know, without going and I 6 guess we could do it if we need to, maybe we'll do it later but let's just for a moment see if we can't generally agree, that there were a considerable number of fibers found on JonBenet Ramsey's body and articles of clothing that were not in fact sourced by the investigation, true?
A. Whether artifact or evidence, yeah, there were a number of hair and fiber pieces in this case that I know they, Trujillo and CBI, were trying to source.
Q. And as of August of '98 had not been able to do so, true?
A. That's my understanding.
Q. And CBI had at one point come up with a conclusion that there was a consistency between fibers found on a blanket in the suitcase that matched fibers on JonBenet's body or were consistent with, is that the right term?
A. I heard Mr. Smit and Mr. DeMuth refer to that but I didn't hear Trujillo ever offer a report or an explanation concerning that.
Q. But the FBI disagreed with the 7 CBI, didn't they?
A. On what point?
Q. On the question of whether there were fibers inside materials found in the suitcase found under the window in the basement consistent with fibers found on JonBenet?
A. No, I'm aware of Smit and DeMuth's position or stating this consistency of these fibers, but I'm not aware of a disagreement between the FBI and that finding.
Q. In your entire law enforcement career, Mr. Thomas, how many cases have you been involved in where the law enforcement authorities concluded that there was staging with respect to a murder?
A. How many cases am I aware of?
Q. Let me ask you and if you would please help us move along. Again, if we don't finish today --
MR. DIAMOND: Your questions are not easy. If he asks for you to repeat it that is his right.
MR. WOOD: Judge Carnes can -- if I'm not being clear let me read it back.
Q. (BY MR. WOOD) In your entire law enforcement career, Mr. Thomas, how many cases have you been involved in where law enforcement authorities concluded that there was staging with respect to a murder?
A. None that I can think of.
Q. And is it your term that the ransom note found in the Ramsey home, have you been one to describe it as the War and Peace of all ransom notes?
A. I did not originate that term, but I've heard that and used it, yes.
Q. This would be the War and Peace of all staging with respect to JonBenet Ramsey, wouldn't it, sir, if it's a staged crime scene?
A. Well, I'm relying on the FBI experts who analyze these cases every day for a living and it was their conclusion that there was staging in this crime scene.
Q. They just -- strike that. The FBI that you rely on also, though, told you that they have not any reported incident of a parent garroting a child to death; that's what the FBI told you 9 about the garrote, true?
A. With a ransom note present and an apparent botched kidnapping where the body was found in the victim's home, that is correct.
Q. Is it your testimony, then, that there are cases that the FBI has in their files where a parent has garroted a child, has strangled to death a child by use of a garrote; is that your testimony?
A. No, my testimony is I don't know what the FBI has in their files concerning their investigation or review of child homicides.
Q. Did you ever ask about whether there was any prior case that you could study where a parent had used a garrote to strangle a child; did you ever ask the FBI that?
A. I don't recall personally asking them that.
Q. Do you know whether anybody in the Boulder Police Department investigation ever made that inquiry to the FBI?
A. There were several trips and inquiries and phone calls and meetings with the FBI. And I don't know, but it would 0 sound reasonable that one would ask that.
Q. If one asked, no one ever gave you the answer and you didn't find out about it, right?
A. They did explain that they have seen cases in which parents have feloniously slain their own children in any number of ways. If garroting was one of those, I'm unaware of that.
Q. Wouldn't that be something you would want to know since you have a garrote involved in this case?
A. Let me answer it simply. Again, I don't know of the FBI, have any knowledge firsthand or secondhand, denying or confirming the use of a garrote in a previous child homicide.
Q. I think I understand you. The red fibers, we're talking about the red fibers off the duct tape, right, the ones that Mr. Hoffman asked you about?
A. Yes.
Q. That were consistent or a likely match with Patsy Ramsey's jacket?
A. Yes. 1
Q. That was the red and black and gray jacket that she was wearing?
A. I've always heard it referred to as a red and black jacket, yes.
Q. It's the one in the photograph, though, that was produced where they went back a year afterwards and tried to find what they were wearing, right?
A. Yes.
Q. Were you aware of the fact that Priscilla White owned an identical jacket, that in fact Patsy Ramsey bought her jacket because she liked Priscilla White's so much?
A. Until you told me that right now, no.
Q. So I assume that no request, that you're aware of, was ever made for the Whites to give articles of clothing with respect to this investigation?
A. They may have been asked to give clothing; I'm unaware of that.
Q. There were no black fibers that were found on the duct tape that were said to be consistent with the fibers on Patsy Ramsey's red and black jacket, were there?
A. It's my understanding that the four fibers were red in color.
Q. Did you find Melody Stanton to be a credible witness in terms of hearing a scream of a child sometime around midnight?
A. I wish I could have talked to her. I never talked to Melody Stanton.
Q. Did the Boulder Police Department consider her to be credible?
A. This collective Boulder Police Department, I don't know what their opinion was of her, but certainly Detective Hartkopp interviewed her and whether or not he found her to be credible, you would have to ask him. But apparently so, he never said anything to the contrary.
Q. In your scenario that Mr. Hoffman had you read into the record, your description of the death of JonBenet Ramsey, do you include in that description as accurate that there was a scream as described by Melody Stanton?
A. According to an ear witness, Melody Stanton.
Q. So the answer is yes?
A. If the question is, was there a scream and do I believe there was a scream that this witness heard, yes.
Q. All right. In your description of how JonBenet Ramsey died, you have made it clear both in your book and in your national television appearances that John Ramsey was not involved, right?
A. It's my belief that John Ramsey was not involved in this crime, you're right.
Q. Right. And that it was sometime, as I understand your description of the events, the next morning when he was studying the ransom note that he became suspicious and perhaps concluded, you say, that his wife was involved, right?
A. That's what I purport in my hypothesis.
Q. What did John Ramsey tell you about who went to bed first on the evening of December 25, 1996?
A. It's a big transcript. I would have to review it.
Q. You don't know that?
A. Who went to bed first?
Q. Yeah.
A. In the Ramsey family?
Q. Yeah, between John and Patsy.
A. I would have to review my report or I would have to review the transcript of that Q and A.
Q. How about do you know as you sit here today who got up first that morning?              (c) 2023